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Pompom Poppers and Catapults

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Physics Volunteer Activities
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Physics Volunteer Activities
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Learn about forces by building a pompom popper and catapult.

What You Need

For each child:

Pompom Popper:

  • 1 cup with the end cut out
  • 1 pompom
  • 1 balloon with the end (not the neck end) cut off 
  • Tools: scissors, tape

Catapult:

  • 8 craft sticks
  • 5 elastics
  • Tools: scissors, tape

Instructions:

Safety Notes

Do not aim your pompom popper or catapult toward another person or animal. 

What To Do

Pompom Popper

  1. Cut the bottom end of your cup and turn your cup upside down on a table. 
  2. Take the balloon, cut approximately ½ inch off the closed end (not the neck end) and put both your sets of fingers inside the balloon to stretch it nice and wide and then place it over the end of your cup.
  3. Tape all around where the balloon touches the cup.
  4. Tie a knot in the balloon neck.
  5. Put the pompom into the cup. Pull the balloon and let it go!

Catapult

  1. Take the 6 small sticks and stack them in a pile. Put an elastic around each end to hold them in place. 
  2. Take the remaining two sticks and wrap an elastic around one end to hold them together. Don't make the elastic too tight.
  3. Place the stack of small sticks between the two other sticks near the end where the elastic is. 
  4. Wrap an elastic around the outside sticks across the pile of sticks on one side and then the other to make an x-shape. This will hold your sticks in place.
  5. Add an elastic to the top outer stick. This will give you a place for your pompom to sit and not fall off. 
  6. Put your pompom on elastic on the top stick
  7. Push down gently on the top outer stick while holding the bottom stick and then let go!

Discovery

What's Happening?

A force is just a push or a pull. There are many forces in nature that cause a push or a pull. Can you think of one? Wind is one that pushes. Gravity is another one - we can't see it and we don't feel it, but the force of gravity is why we don't float around. It keeps us pulled down to the earth! When you pull the balloon on your pompom popper and then let go, you cause a push onto the pompom inside the cup and it shoots the pompom out. Gravity pulls the pompom to the ground. Just like your pompom popper, the catapult also uses force to make the pompom fly across the room. When you push down on the spoon and let go, the push from the spoon causes the pompom to fly into the air and gravity pulls the pompom to the ground. See how far you can get your pompom in the air or across the floor. Which makes the pompom go further - the popper or the catapult? Why do you think this is? Have fun experimenting with forces!


 

What's Happening?

A force is just a push or a pull. There are many forces in nature that cause a push or a pull. Can you think of one? Wind is one that pushes. Gravity is another one - we can't see it and we don't feel it, but the force of gravity is why we don't float around. It keeps us pulled down to the earth! When you pull the balloon on your pompom popper and then let go, you cause a push onto the pompom inside the cup and it shoots the pompom out. Gravity pulls the pompom to the ground. Just like your pompom popper, the catapult also uses force to make the pompom fly across the room. When you push down on the spoon and let go, the push from the spoon causes the pompom to fly into the air and gravity pulls the pompom to the ground. See how far you can get your pompom in the air or across the floor. Which makes the pompom go further - the popper or the catapult? Why do you think this is? Have fun experimenting with forces!


 

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